Saturday, February 20, 2010

Conscious Or Confident (22/90)

Today was an incredibly self-conscious day for one reason only: The hair.

For the first time in several months I wore the hair free, with no headband to hold it back or stretch the curls. I didn’t even bring a just-in-case headband, which was a bold move for me.

“You know why I don’t do this, right,” I said to my sister as we sat at dinner after she told me that she liked it.

“I can’t control it,” I said.

It has a mind of its own.

I spent the whole 40 minute drive to school this afternoon hoping that it would look the way that it did when I jumped out of the shower, looked in the mirror and decided to just let it be.

And it was. But, by the end of the night, it was not the hair that I was confident in when I looked in the mirror this morning.


There is a moment in childhood, once we are outside of the bubble of our homes that we realize that we are different. That our story is not always a shared story.

Mine wasn’t the day that I was called the “n” word as I waited to join the game of foursquare on the playground by a girl that I’d hoped would be my friend. Or the day that I realized I was the only kindergartner without a homemade lunch, rather $2.00 in a Ziploc bag in my backpack.

After having adjusted to the stares and requests to touch my hair from kids who had probably never seen a black girl before, mine came on a particular day in the classroom.

“Your hair stinks,” a little boy said as he sat at the desk behind me.

I had freshly relaxed hair, which means that day was probably a Monday after a Saturday visit to the salon. It was silky and straight with curls at the ends. After salon visits I was confident. I’m sure that I had been flipping my hair, twirling the ends and whipping my head around all day to be sure that everyone noticed the hair.  

I don’t remember what I did or said back, if anything.  I remember being so upset that the teacher took me outside to talk. She struggled as she tried to comfort me.

“You’re hair is so pretty today,” she said. “Let me smell”

She told me it didn’t stink of course. But she was lying. It smelled.  It smelled of chemicals that are not familiar to everyone’s nostrils. But as young as I was, after one Saturday a month in the salon, it was a smell that I no longer noticed.

I went back into the classroom and was still. I stopped flipping my hair, twirling the ends and shaking my head. The confidence I’d walked in with that day was gone.

This was one of the first of many reminders that I did not fit. And the very thing that made me feel like I did was the very thing that reminded others that I did not.  

This was not a black or white issue though.

I always kept my hair long and relaxed. 

I learned to anticipate the arguments from black girls that told me it that it was not mine. There were too many times that one would put her hand through my hair as if she was just enjoying it only to give a tug at the end that she’d hoped would reveal a lie.

I learned to keep it up in an inconspicuous bun except on special occasions. I learned to keep the curls pulled back with headbands.

I’ve chosen confidence over consciousness. The less I could get people to look, the more confident I would feel.

But despite my experiences, that choice is one I required of myself.  It’s one that I’ve grown tired of making.

Because there is no winning in this culture with this hair, unless the winning is inside of me. 


Brad King said...

If I had hair, I'd be rocking the 'fro. Of course, I do not understand women and their hair at all. I just know - yours is The Awesome. Rock it however you want + don't worry about the rest of the world. They are crazy.

Trust me on this one.

Tiffany Holbert said...

Thanks a lot! I'm sure if you had hair, it'd be The Awesome too! :)

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